xOD Capsule Newsletter - June 27, 2006

Tue, 06/27/2006 - 6:38am  |  CED Broadband Direct  |  Current Issue  |  Subscriptions June 27 , 2006 VOD's variable futureOne of the big topics at last week's SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver was bandwidth, that oh, so precious commodity. While there were discussions about bandwidth expansion to 1 GHz or more and the products on the floor that could do just that, most of that talk centered on how operators can get more out of the bandwidth they've already got. Video-on-demand, of course, is just one of those services that can consume gobs of bandwidth. When HD is added to the mix, bandwidth shifts from easy consumption to voracious devouring. That, coupled with a spectrum range that doesn't have much left until analog channels are recaptured, appears to be opening the door to variable bit rate (VBR) VOD and companies new to the scene such as Imagine Communications. Now out of stealth mode, Imagine is touting a Quality On Demand Gateway device that employs stat-muxing techniques to cram up to 15 VBR VOD streams in a 256 QAM channel. That's 50 percent better than what operators can get using constant bit rate (CBR), which clamps VOD streams at a specified 3.75 Mbps. Imagine claims a similar improvement with HD-VOD: three HD VOD streams with VBR, versus two with CBR. VBR also promises better video quality overall. CBR, because it is clamped, tends to "chop off the peaks" for video. The rate is 3.75 Mbps whether the subject of the video is a talking head or a fast-moving football game. That will grow in importance as DVDs based on technologies such as Blu-ray hit the market. Although cable was first to hit consumers with an HD-VOD product, Blu-ray disks will be able to encode HD content at a higher bit rate than cable can today. With VBR, cable could product a much better HD-VOD experience for customers, Imagine officials say. "Digital video wants to be VBR," company SVP of Marketing & Business Development Marc Tayer told me last week at the show, which marked the first public demo of Imagine's imaginative products. In addition to Imagine's gateway, its system also uses a "QOD Controller," which amounts to a server and special software that handles the stat muxing and determines how a channel can be best utilized. When coupled with a server-based controller and variable bit ratecapabilities, Imagine's QOD Gateway claims to improveVOD bandwidth by up to 30 percent. Although Imagine aims to help operators in the very important area of bandwidth conservation, getting from the show floor to deployments in the field will be quite a leap. The company, which still needs to complete interops with VOD server and backoffice vendors, hopes to be in one or two field trials later this year. Critics have said the bandwidth efficiencies VBR VOD can produce today aren't economically practical yet, while other methods, such as switched digital broadcast (SDB), are. I suppose it is a good move, then, that Imagine also has SDB on the roadmap. Imagine believes it can do even better that the 15 switched channels per 6 MHz channel that SDB can achieve today. Imagine's system hopes to improve that ratio as high as 20 to 1. That's because, with SDB, "we already have a nice VBR source coming in, Tayer explains. Editor's note: We will be taking a break during the U.S. Independence Day festivities. The next edition of xOD Capsule will appear Tuesday, July 11. — Jeff Baumgartner, Editor in Chief, CED magazine and xOD Capsule Cox to put Moto's OCAP to the testCox Communications has set plans to evaluate Motorola Inc.'s OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) middleware implementation. The OCAP specification enables software developers to write applications that can run on any cable television system in North America, regardless of the hardware, provided it is OCAP enabled. Motorola's stab at OCAP is based on the OCAP 1.0 and OCAP-DVR specifications, which allows operators to tap into the networking capabilities of the Motorola Follow Me TV platform. This will enable developers to take advantage of features such as linking set-tops and mobile devices and the sharing of tuners and storage across a home network. "Motorola's set-top platform is a critical piece of Cox's OCAP ecosystem and having their set-top platform ready for evaluation and testing will help us ensure a successful rollout," said John Hildebrand, vice president of video technology engineering for Cox, in a statement. Cox, Harmonic team on video mosaicsCox Communications is powering a new video mosaic application with a digital platform from Harmonic Inc.. Using Harmonic's ProStream 8000, Cox is enabling customers to see and select networks from multiple on-screen video thumbnails. Viewers can listen to the audio of a program by selecting the thumbnail, and can shift the channel into full-screen mode with the push of a button on the remote. Harmonic's ProStream 8000 system is supportingcable-fed 'mosaic' navigation applications. Cox hopesto have its version of the app deployed across theboard over the next year. Pictured here is a genericmosaic powered by the Harmonic platform. A Cox spokesperson said the company's Kansas properties are the first to offer the mosaic applications, with plans to offer mosaics across the board over the next 12 months. Harmonic's all-digital, MPEG-in/MPEG-out system is designed to enable the operator to create program groupings based on themes such as news and sports, and to provide regional or locally- focused promos and program previews. "Harmonic's mosaic solution enables Cox to add a new dimension to the user experience by enabling visual navigation of programming as well as better promotion of service such as VOD," said Cox Director of iTV Applications Vince Groff. The Comcast Media Center and GuideWorks LLC, the Comcast Corp./Gemstar-TV Guide joint venture, have also developed a "video-rich" mosaic navigation system that's designed to hook into the flagship iGuide IPG, but have yet to announce any specific deployments or trials with Comcast or other operators. Harmonic opens new gatewayHarmonic Inc. has introduced the Narrowcast Services Gateway (NSG) 9000, its fourth-gen series of Edge QAM devices. The "IP-enabled" NSG 9000 can host up to 72 QAM channels in a two rack-unit chassis, the company said, noting that it is devised to support applications ranging from traditional video-on-demand, switched digital broadcast, and network-based digital video recording. The new device is also designed to work with the DOCSIS 3.0-based modular cable modem termination systems (m-CMTS). The gear also supports "Privacy Mode" real-time encryption, which presently is outfitted to protect content distributed via Motorola -made digital cable headends and set-tops. "Well over 1,000 concurrent narrowcast streams can be delivered by one (NSG 9000) system, depending on the bit-rates of the video, giving cable operators unprecedented levels of scalability and value," said Harmonic's NSG Produce Marketing Manager Guy de Beer. Atlas, Tandberg partner on on-demand ad platformAtlas On Demand and Tandberg Television have struck an integration and marketing deal related to their respective on-demand advertising systems. The deal will team Tandberg's "AdPoint On Demand Advertising Platform" with a system from Atlas that automates ad campaigns and provides reporting and measurement tools for on-demand advertising. The system will aim to help operators extract more value out of their "free" on-demand content. SCTE launches cert program for digital video engineersThe Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) has developed a new certification called the Digital Video Engineering Professional (DVEP) certification, along with an associated training program. The new SCTE professional credential certifies knowledge in the engineering aspects of digital video systems as deployed in the cable industry. The scope of the DVEP certification includes the design, analysis, testing, integration, deployment considerations, and troubleshooting of a variety of digital video systems. Specific areas of coverage in the certification include: Facilities and physical aspects Digital video theory Digital video systems design and performance analysis Digital video systems test and integration Digital video systems deployment Engineering management and professionalism "This certification can be used as a tool to give employers confidence that holders of SCTE's DVEP certification possess the knowledge to run our sophisticated networks," said Pam Nobles of Comcast, who also chairs the SCTE Certification Subcommittee. TVN releases 'ADONISS' sequelTVN Entertainment has launched the second coming of its video-on-demand content management system. The new system, dubbed ADONISS 2, automates several functions, including content origination, network monitoring and the general workflow process. TVN said it presently originates north of 3,000 hours of content, and manages more than 1.8 million VOD "elements" each month. The new system will also enable affiliates and content partners better access to and control of their content, thanks to a new Web-based interface that allows them to view, track and edit metadata from any point in the distribution chain. That capability will allow affiliates, for example, to add and delete content packages remotely, make changes to their menu structure and to generate reports on the fly. ADONNIS 2 also features a centralized, remote metadata-authoring tool that will help operators and on-demand content firms to incorporate local content. "The need to scale aggressively and the ability to trace assets via watermarks, coupled with the growing demand from our affiliates and content partners to extend control over their content packages, inspired TVN to pursue a different approach to managing digital elements throughout their creation, distribution, and exhibition windows," said TVN Chief Technology Officer Dom Stasi. TVN's VOD cable operator partners include Adelphia, Bresnan, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter, Comcast, Cox, Insight Communications and Verizon, among others. ViewNow adds Buena Vista to VOD libraryViewNow, the VOD content aggregation division of Kasenna Inc., has scored a deal to offer movies and other content from Disney's Buena Vista Pay Television division. The deal, which covers distribution to ViewNow's cable and telco partners, will allow consumers to order Disney VOD titles for a 72-hour viewing period. ViewNow said the extended viewing period marks a first for the VOD industry. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal includes content from Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, and Pixar Animation Studios. Sling Media enters Land of the Rising SunSling Media is bringing its "place-shifting" device, the Slingbox, to Japan through partnerships with Itochu and I-O Data Device. Itochu will serve as Sling Media's exclusive distribution partner in Japan, and I-O Data will market and sell the Slingbox through their retail locations across the country. Heard On The Net... Netflix prepping Internet-fed movie boxNetflix has reinvigorated plans to introduce a set-top that uses high-speed connections to download movies, Daily Variety reported, citing Netflix VP Eric Besner, who spoke recently at an independent film meeting in California. The proprietary platform would use a subscription-based system similar to how consumers are already paying Netflix to rent out DVDs through the postal mail. The new box is just one of several plans Netflix has in store for the Internet, Besner said. Advertisement VISIT CED MAGAZINE’S NEW PRODUCT SHOWCASE at Click Here! We are making changes and additions (including international deployments) to ourWeb-based "living" deployment chart. If you have a new deployment to report for the VOD Scorecard and the Web-based deployment chart, please contact CED Editor Jeff Baumgartner.   June 2006Issue Contents » Company: Tandberg TelevisionHeadquarters: Atlanta, Ga. (Americas division)URL: www.tandbergtv.comPresident: Eric Cooney Claim to fame: In the VOD world, the company got into the backoffice game after acquiring N2 Broadband, and the interactive television arena via its purchase of GoldPocket Interactive. The company is also a major supplier of encoders for MPEG-2 and advanced codecs such as MPEG-4. Recent news of note: Cable vet Michael Adams joined the company as vice president of system architecture. Adams joins Tandberg following a similar role at Terayon Communication Systems. Before that, he was with AOL, Road Runner and Time Warner Cable, where he played a key roll in the development of the MSO's Full Service Network test in Orlando, as well as "Pegasus," which became the baseline for Time Warner Cable's digital cable platform. Company: VongoHeadquarters: Englewood, Colo.URL: Claim to fame: A division of premium programmer Starz Entertainment Group, Vongo offers a wide range of downloadable movies and programs. The site, which recently went out of Beta, also features a 24/7, linear stream of the flagship Starz channel. Recent news of note: Cut a deal to make its service available on and compatible with Toshiba's new line of "gigabeat" portable video players. Toshiba initially is offering two versions. The 30 gigabyte model will run $300 at retail; a 60 GB version will sell for $400. 2nd AnnualC-COR Global IP Summit June 28-29, 2006 Athens, GreeceMore information: Click Here CTAM SummitJuly 17-19, 2006Boston, Mass. More information: Click Here Cross Platform Summit 2006Aug. 8-9, 2006West Hollywood, Calif.More information: Click Here CTAM Blue Ribbon BreakfastSept. 13, 2006Grand HyattNew York, N.Y.More information: Click Here IPComm 2006Sept. 25-27, 2006 Nashville, Tenn. More information: Click Here 2006 FTTH Conference & ExpoOct. 2-5, 2006 The Venetial Resort Las Vegas, Nev. More information: Click Here The Cable Center Key Issue Series: "Confronting Cable's Technological Frontier" Oct. 10, 2006 The Cable CenterDenver, Colo. For more information, contact Jana Henthorn ( 9th Annual Cable Television Hall of Fame Celebration Oct. 11, 2006Denver, Colo. The Cable CenterMore information: Click Here CTHRA Fall Symposium Oct. 18, 2006Philadelphia, Pa. Park Hyatt HotelMore information: Click Here TelcoTV 2006Nov. 6-8, 2006Dallas, TexasMore information: Click Here Archive Now Available Copyright © 2006 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

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